Aims and ambitions
As part of a masterplan to transform the Design Museum Gent, the museum is undertaking a major renovation project to extend its existing buildings. Due to start on site later in the year, the new wing will house galleries and event spaces to broaden the museum’s cultural programming and visitor outreach.
To lower the embodied carbon used in the project’s construction and meet the client's brief for the new extension, a lime-cured, local waste brick has been developed and certified for use on the building’s façade. The project has been funded through a generous grant from Circular Flanders and sogent, on behalf of the city of Gent, and researched in collaboration with Design Museum Gent, sogent, Carmody Groarke, BC Materials, Local Works Studio and TRANS architects.
Design challenges and environmental impact
The building’s façade has been designed to reference the light-toned civic buildings in Gent. The pale coloured brick and white mortar is composed of locally sourced municipal waste streams as aggregate including crushed concrete and white glass with lime as the primary binding agent. All composite materials have been carefully selected to create a white tone. The waste materials are meticulously filtered and sorted at a production centre in the centre of Gent before being pressed into their specified shape and size.
The Gent Waste Brick is cured rather than fired, gaining strength from carbonation. The hydraulic lime captures CO2 from the atmosphere as the bricks cure, sequestering carbon over the life of the building. The design team worked in close collaboration to specify a unique material composition that is low in embodied carbon and will deliver the required strength and resilience for use in external conditions. This fabrication process, coupled with the use of recycled composites results in a brick with 0.17kg CO2e/kg, just 1/3 the embodied carbon of a Belgian clay fired brick. 2
The team have worked closely alongside the Design Museum Gent to produce a highly crafted, bespoke material object that embodies the culture and ethos of the institution, challenging the material qualities and aesthetic properties of a traditional brick and adding to the lineage of design objects displayed and cared for by the museum. As part of the museum’s progressive engagement programme, residents and those visiting the city will be given the unique opportunity to help make a brick that will go on to build the new museum wing. The bricks will be manufactured on a brownfield site in Gent, using a clean simple production process which could easily be replicated in other urban settings; there are no resultant emissions, by-products or waste.
Research and development
The bricks have undergone a robust development process that includes testing against European Norms and consultation with the certification body for the construction sector BCCA (Belgian Construction Certification Association). Through rethinking traditional manufacturing processes, the project addresses complex issues surrounding the circular economy in construction including the viability of localised construction, availability of local resources and the testing of recycled materials.
The project was only made possible through the knowledge and skills of the project consultants and the support, enthusiasm and bold vision of the project clients: sogent and the Design Museum Gent.
The project was won in collaboration with TRANS and RE-ST in an open
international competition in 2019. It is due for completion in 2024.